The hidden dangers of comparing fighting arts.


The hidden dangers of comparing fighting arts.
In light of the recent “crossover” boxing match between Mayweather and McGregor, I am reminded how loyal people can be to the fighting arts they practise. I also feel that the management teams of both Boxers exploited this loyalty to make an obscene amount of money from curious fans without giving much in return.

I am frequently asked if I think Muay Thai is “better” than MMA….? Who would win between..? Would this technique work against a…?    Etc, etc. Well, here is my answer.
Although it is hard to dispute that a certain style of fighting may have advantages or disadvantages, this consideration will always be secondary to the skills and ability of the practitioner. Martial Arts “style” becomes largely irrelevant when it comes down to actual combat. You may ponder if a world class Karate champion would beat a beginner to MMA ? Or perhaps who might win in a fight between an experienced Judoka vs a Novice Thai-Boxer? It soon becomes clear that style is not as important as who you are fighting or even the rules you choose to adhere to. It is impossible to accurately compare any fighting arts that are different.
Similarly, one could not deny the effectiveness of the various forms of ground fighting, but the plain truth is, they hold no interest for me as a Martial Artist, and I have no desire to learn these skills, in the same way I don’t wish to learn Kung Fu or Hapkido.
Mixed Martial Arts is a relatively new sub culture. It does not benefit from a strong historical development in itself, but its practitioners selectively borrow techniques from other existing fighting arts to creatively build their repertoire of skills. In doing so they have to broaden and perhaps even dilute their spectrum of skills to be more versatile. So it is largely a matter of personal opinion whether you value a broader range of skills or a specialised discipline.
I have to say, Muay Thai is a part of me. We’ve been friends for so long I have been privileged to experience it’s many different faces. I like it’s mechanics, the way it generates power, It’s undeniable conditioning and the simplicity and complexity it dances with in equal measure. I also find deep value in the subtle balance of brutality, aggression, compassion and respect which underpins all of Muay Thai.

The fighting/competitive side of Muay Thai in Thailand is perceived as a purely “physical” experience; professional Nak Muay do not hate each other…, rather it is a job of work. Professional rivalry exists between different Muay Thai camps but even this is never malicious. Muay Thai is physically demanding and not beyond danger as elbows, kicks, knees and punches are all used with full power to injure or KO an opponent. The fight has to play out in a specific way using skill and balance, timing, resilience, courage and tenacity. Sometimes little things mean a lot and are easy to miss. Before a fight, you may see contestants sitting next to each other in the Stadiums, waiting for their turn in the ring. But there is no “calling each other out” or trying to intimidate each other – that would be seen as disrespectful and losing face. Rarely if ever, do you hear fighters describing their hatred for each other because there can be no value in defeating an opponent whom you do not think is worthy.
I dislike the current “ethos” which seems to surround MMA – it’s sensationalism and the encouragement of hatred through media manipulation. The contrived over confidence/arrogance, shameless self promotion, corporate hype and marketing which seems to define MMA and the UFC in particular. Any fighter can look good against a second rate opponent with poor skills. The often seen spectacle and drama of fighters facing off after their weigh-in, shouting and grimacing at each other in a vulgar attempt to sell themselves, is trashy and encourages others (outside the sport) to behave in the same way. In contests, we see the dangerous brutality – even when opponents are unconscious – and how the Referee is having to pull fighters off a downed opponent. I recall an event in the US which marketed both fighters to appear unbeatable. They were both clearly “performance enhanced” and looking to kill each other…. But the reality was that one athlete got disappointingly KO’d in the first minute of the first round with an extremely mediocre technique which, for me, made the whole event a ridiculous hyped up sham. A lot of these cage fighters demonstrate rudimentary “stand up” skills at best and lack discipline and dignity fighting through their hatred in their eagerness to win at all costs. This is not a healthy cultural progression. It encourages primal behaviour and triggers a morbid excitement for violence which should not be encouraged. I’m sure that deaths will occur in the future and what does that say to future generations of spectators watching this kind of sport? Already, MMA has developed a following of (some not all) spectators who are typically disrespectful, drunk, swearing, spitting and looking to start fights themselves in a grim hooligan frenzy. I just don’t think this is healthy. BUT….. MMA, it’s fans and followers are not solely to blame for the way some people choose to behave, I’m certainly not trying to suggest that. I believe it is morally and physically dangerous to encourage hatred among any groups or individuals.
These are just my own personal opinions based on observation and conversation with others. When making comparisons between different Fighting Arts, are we comparing individuals? A set of rules? The impact it may have on shaping future behaviour?  You have to define what you’re comparing.  In closing, I don’t see any point in making the argument that Muay Thai is better than anything else. You must choose whatever interests you – Muay Thai, Boxing, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, Kung-Fu…..or even Football or Tennis. Whatever catches your fancy. It is not anyone else’s choice – only yours!

2 Responses to “The hidden dangers of comparing fighting arts.”

  1. Stephen Reilly on August 28th, 2017 5:26pm

    Great well thought out post, i agree that whilst the face offs and name calling create hype and interest it’s not in the spirit of martial arts. The mma fighters are superb athletes who are talented in their field, it’s just sad that being disrespectful and nasty in the run up to a fight sells tickets.

  2. scott fletcher on September 16th, 2017 7:26am

    Love this post mick.proud we have you as our teacher. These words emulate what the wicker is about and why it is so respected.

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